23 November 2021

Can the Grand Canal in Dublin
compare with the Grand Canal
in Venice, or Rialto with Rialto?

No 7 Ontario Terrace faces the Grand Canal between Ranelagh and Rathmines … my grandmother’s brother, John Lynders, lived there until he died in 1957 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Patrick Comerford

Can the Grand Canal in Venice compare with the Grand Canal in Dublin.

Can Rialto Bridge in Dublin compare with Rialto Bridge in Venice?

I was in Dublin last week, just a week after being Venice, where I had stayed in an hotel where I had breakfast each morning and drinks each evening on balconies looking onto the Grand Canal.

A week later, when I arrived in Dublin on the afternoon before a day-long meeting in Christ Church Cathedral, I walked for a stretch along the Grand Canal, from Charlemont Street Bridge almost as far as Sally Bridge.

It was late afternoon, and dusk was beginning to fall. Soon, south Dublin would be enfolded in the evening darkness, so I decided to limit my walk so that along the way I could take some photographs of houses that had some family connections.

My first stop was at Ontario Terrace, which fronts the Grand Canal and bridges the boundary between the suburbs of Ranelagh and Rathmines.

Ontario Terrace was built in 1840, when canals were at the cutting edge of transport, the penny black stamp become the founding mark of public postal service, and Queen Victoria (22) married Prince Albert. Ontario Province was probably given its name to mark the foundation that year of the Province of Canada.

At one time, Ontario Terrace was home to the nationalist writer, John Mitchel, who lived at No 8 while writing for The Nation newspaper. Mitchel returned to Ireland from exile in 1875 and was elected MP for Tipperary.

James Joyce’s parents, John Stanislaus Joyce and May (Murray), lived briefly at No 13 Ontario Terrace after they were married in Rathmines in 1880. Their first-born, John Augustine Joyce, was born there on 23 November 1880, but survived only eight days.

In Ulysses, Joyce has Leopold and Molly Bloom living at No 1 Ontario Terrace in 1897 and 1898 with their pilfering maid, Mary Driscoll, excoriated by Molly for flirting with Leopold and stealing her potatoes and oysters. ‘That slut Mary we had in Ontario Terrace padding out her false bottom to excite him,’ she snaps. In fact, at the time, No 1 was the home a house painter named Behan.

In the early 20th century, Ontario Terrace was a middle-class enclave of the sort that both Bloom and Joyce were familiar with. But in the decades that followed, its fortunes plummeted. Fifty years on, there were plans to fill in the canal and make it into a motorway.

My grandmother’s elder brother, John Lynders (1873-1957), my great-uncle, lived at No 7 Ontario Terrace until he died in 1957, and his wife, my-great aunt Mary Ellen Lynders, was living there when she died in 1963.

John Lynders had been a sergeant in the Royal Irish Constabulary in the difficult years in the first quarter of the 20th century. He was two years older than my grandmother, and was born in Portane on 11 January 1873. He joined the RIC, became a Sergeant in the RIC and was later a Head Constable. He married Mary Ellen Reardon (1881-1963) from Fermoy, Co Cork.

John Lynders was living at the RIC Barracks, South Main Street, Wexford, when his children were born in 1908 and 1911. The former RIC Barracks later became the Dun Mhuire Hall in Wexford.

John Lynders was a sergeant in Duncannon, Co Wexford, by 1917, and was later transferred from Wexford to Ballymahon, Co Longford (1919-1922), where he was a Head Constable. On 18 August 1920, an IRA group led by Seán Mac Eoin and Seán Connolly, attacked the RIC barracks in Ballymahon and captured rifles, revolvers, grenades and ammunition.

After the dissolution of the RIC, John Lynders returned to live in Dublin. He was living at 7 Ontario Terrace, Portobello, when he died on 13 November 1957, aged 84. His widow Mary was living at 7 Ontario Terrace when she died on 13 May 1963, aged 82.

In 1966, Ontario Terrace provided one of the locations for the RTÉ drama series Insurrection, produced to mark the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising in 1916. As I stood outside his former home last week, I wondered what John Lynders would have thought of that.

Later, No 7 included the offices of Padraig Mulcahy (1920-2012), a chartered quantity surveyor and son of General Richard Mulcahy, first chief of staff of the Irish Free State army and a leader of Fine Gael, and in the 1970s he bought the neighbouring house, No 6, which was derelict. He restored and extended the property, and his family later moved in.

Today, the houses on Ontario Terrace, including No 7, are protected buildings. No 6 is on the market with an asking price of €1.395 million, while neighbouring No 10 is on the market with an asking price of €1.3 million.

No 18 Parnell Road, as No 18 Parnell Place, was a Comerford family home from 1877 until after 1911 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

From Ontario Terrace, I continued along the south bank of the Grand Canal, passing Portobello Bridge and Harold’s Cross Bridge, and stopped at Parnell Road, where one Comerford family lived at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, at the same time as John Lynders was living in Wexford.

William Comerford (1842/1843-1907), an heraldic engraver, lived in 18 Parnell Place, Rathmines, now 18 Parnell Road, Harold’s Cross, from 1877 to 1907. He had married Hannah Jordan, daughter of John Jordan, in Saint Audeon’s Church (Church of Ireland), Cornmarket, Dublin, in 1862.

William Comerford died at 18 Parnell Place, Harold’s Cross, on 28 May 1907, but his family continued to live in the house until long after the 1911 census.

William’s son, Charles William Comerford (1877-1953), was living at Parnell Place, or Parnell Road, when he married Adelaide Margaret Field (1878-1953) of Leinster Square, Rathmines, in Holy Trinity Church, Rathmines, in 1910.

The couple later lived at No 60 Kenilworth Square, Rathgar, and their granddaughter, Angela Marks, believes Charles Comerford was in the GPO in O’Connell Street in 1916 and says family tradition tells of him crawling out along the street and swearing to leave Ireland.

The family left Ireland ca 1922, but the memory of the family home in Rathgar was continued in the name ‘Kenilworth’ which he gave to his house on Nore Road in Portishead, near Bristol. Adelaide and Charles Comerford died within seven months of each other in 1953. As I stood outside his former home last week, I wondered what Charles Comerford would have thought of Ireland today.

No 9 Arbutus Avenue, one of the two houses I first remember being in as a small child (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

My final stopping point in my late afternoon stroll along the south bank of the Grand Canal last week was around the corner from Parnell Road, in Arbutus Avenue

The two houses I first remember being in as a small child are my grandmother’s home in Cappoquin, Co Waterford, and this house at No 9 Arbutus Avenue.

The house on Arbutus Avenue, just like the house in Cappoquin, looks so much smaller today than I remember it, and it is not as pretty either. But, in my mind’s eye, I can still walk around each room in each house, and the house near the Grand Canal is still a comforting place to see, with fading but warm memories of those early childhood days.

I was going to walk on to Rialto Bridge, but dusk and was falling, and I knew, despite any wishful thinking, any photograph I took there could not match Rialto Bridge on the Grand Canal in Venice the previous week.

Rialto Bridge on the Grand Canal in Venice … not quite matched by Rialto Bridge on the Grand Canal in Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Praying in Ordinary Time 2021:
178, San Cassiano Church, Venice

The Church of San Cassiano in the San Polo sestiere of Venice stands on the Campo San Cassiano, the site of the world’s first public opera house (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Patrick Comerford

We are in the last week of Ordinary Time, the week before Advent. Before a busy day begins, I am taking some time early this morning for prayer, reflection and reading.

Each morning in the time in the Church Calendar known as Ordinary Time, I have been reflecting in these ways:

1, photographs of a church or place of worship;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

My theme on this prayer diary this week is seven more churches in Venice. Earlier in this prayer diary, I illustrated my morning reflections with images from churches in Venice and on Murano and Burano. While I was in Venice this month, I reflected on the synagogues in the Ghetto in Venice (7-13 November)

As part of my reflections and this prayer diary this week, I am looking at seven more churches I visited in Venice earlier this month. This theme continues this morning (23 November 2021) with photographs from the Church of San Cassiano in the San Polo sestiere of Venice.

Inside the Church of San Cassiano, richly decorated in a Baroque style (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

San Cassiano is a 14th-century church and was the church nearest to the hotel I was staying in, the Residenza D’epoca San Cassiano. A church has stood on the site since 726. The present church, dedicated to Saint Cassian of Imola, was consecrated in 1376 and remodelled in the 17th century. It has a plain exterior with several adjacent buildings overlapping it. Its interior, however, is richly decorated in a Baroque style.

The church is located on the Campo San Cassiano, the site of the world’s first public opera house, west of the Rialto Bridge, and has three paintings by Tintoretto.

The earliest church on this site was built in 726 and dedicated to Saint Cecilia, the patron saint of musicians and music. Over the centuries, there have been several rebuilding projects, including one following a fire in 1106, and a major rebuild that commenced in 1350.

The church was consecrated in 1376 and re-modelled in the early 17th century to give it its current appearance which dates from 1663. A large campanile, 43 metres high, was added to the church in the 13th century, although its rugged style suggests it may have been a guard tower later acquired by the church.

A door on the side facing the water once had a porch or portico, but this was demolished in the 19th century.

The church is typically described as having the appearance of a ‘big box’ with buildings close by and overlapping on several sides. Unlike many churches in Venice, it has no façade and the exterior is plain and unadorned.

A feature that may have survived from the original church is the door jambs or doorposts, dating back to the Byzantine era. Entry to the church is usually through a side door in the wall facing the Campo San Cassiano.

In contrast to the plain exterior, the interior is highly decorated in the Baroque style. It has an altar by Heinrich Meyring and Nardo. Meyring is notable for the large altar he produced for the Church of San Moisè, also in Venice.

The ceiling of the church was painted by Costantino Cedini, a student of Giambattista Tiepolo, and has recently been restored. In 1746, Abbot Carlo del Medico commissioned a chapel which is located on the left-hand side of the church. It contains an altarpiece dating to 1763 and a ceiling fresco, both by the artist Giambattista Pittoni.

The chancel of San Cassiano houses three paintings by Tintoretto, who was once a parishioner: ‘The Resurrection,’ ‘The Descent into Hell,’ and ‘The Crucifixion,’ completed between 1565 and 1568. John Ruskin described Tintoretto’s ‘Crucifixion’ as ‘the finest in Europe’ and noted its particularly interesting perspective which Ruskin said gave the viewer the impression that they were ‘lying full length on the grass, or rather among the brambles and luxuriant weeds.’

Tintoretto’s Resurrection was painted in defiance of a decree of the Council of Trent that all depictions of the Resurrection feature a standing, rather than hovering, Christ figure.

The Sicilian artist Antonello da Messina was commissioned by Pietro Bon to paint an altarpiece for the church. Completed between 1475 and 1476, his Sacra Conversazione was one of the earliest appearances of oil in the artworks of Venice. It brought a style of altarpiece that would be imitated by other Venetian artists, including Giovanni Bellini, Giorgione and the Vivarini brothers, Antonio and Bartolomeo, establishing a template that would be used all the way through to Titian.

However, the most famous painting associated with the church is no longer there. San Cassiano’s altarpiece, painted by Antonello da Messina, was the first major example of an oil painting in Venice. The altarpiece disappeared from the church in the 17th century and reappeared in Vienna in the private collection of Archduke Leopold William of Austria and was attributed to Giovanni Bellini. After it was removed from Venice, the altarpiece was split into a number of fragments. Only three of these were found and they are now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.

The church also has an early 18th-century painting of the Martyrdom of San Cassiano by Antonio Balestra. It depicts the saint being attacked by school children. The story explains why Saint Cassian of Imola is the patron saint of school teachers.

In 1509, the funeral procession of Catherine Cornaro, the former queen of Cyprus and wealthy Venetian noblewoman, began at San Cassiano. From there it crossed a floating bridge to the Church of Santi Apostoli where she was buried in the Cornaro family chapel.

The playwright Count Carlo Gozzi was buried in the church, but his tombstone has not survived.

San Cassiano’s altarpiece, the first major example of an oil painting in Venice, disappeared from the church in the 17th century and reappeared in a private collection in Vienna (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Luke 21: 5-11 (NRSVA):

5 When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, 6 ‘As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.’

7 They asked him, ‘Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?’ 8 And he said, ‘Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, “I am he!” and, “The time is near!” Do not go after them.

9 ‘When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.’ 10 Then he said to them, ‘Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; 11 there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.’

The war memorial on the south wall of the Church of San Cassiano (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (23 November 2021) invites us to pray:

Lord, we pray for the work of the International Anglican Women’s Network. Bless them in all they do to represent women across the Anglican Communion.

A votive plaque on an exterior wall of the church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

A door on the west side, facing the water, once had a portico, but this was demolished in the 19th century (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)